Ontario has more than its fair-share of bucket-list experiences all promising to leave you with never-to-be-forgotten memories. Whether you’re a fan of bright lights or the great outdoors, Ontario does have it all.
Ontario is one of the thirteen provinces in Canada and is home to Canada’s capital city – Ottawa. It’s the most populated province in the country and where you’ll find Niagara Falls and the largest metropolis in Canada – Toronto. It is one of those places that has it all and is a great place to see many of Canada’s greatest treasures.
For that might be already thinking of an excuse, allow us to start by telling you, getting to Ontario simple. There are direct flights to Toronto, taking just 7.5 hours from the UK.
There’s so much to see and do in Ontario that it is difficult to know where to start! There’s an almost unlimited list of ‘must-do’, ‘must-see’ and ‘must-dine’ experiences. If the bright lights aren’t your cup of tea, perhaps an excursion into the great outdoors? The outdoor experiences are every bit as exciting as those in the city. To whet your appetite, how about sampling Icewine in Niagara-on-the-Lake or adventuring on a moose safari in Algonquin Provincial Park?
These fantastic experiences and much more are listed below in our guide to Ontario’s most iconic bucket-list experiences.
Experience the magic of Winterlude in Ottawa
Experience the magical winter wonder of Ottawa’s 50th Winterlude from (January – February), where travellers can skate on the Rideau Canal – the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world, – enjoy tube sliding and snow slides, partake in skiing and snowboarding lessons and admire the International Ice-Carving Competition. Visitors should also try a signature BeaverTails treat, consisting of fried dough topped with mouth-watering sweet or savoury additions such as cinnamon, chocolate, maple syrup, cheese or garlic while there.
Indulge in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Icewine
Niagara-on-the-Lake, located just 90 minutes’ drive from Toronto, is world-famous and internationally recognised for its Icewine; produced when grapes are harvested while frozen onto vines in temperatures colder than -8oC. For those wanting to add a little more sparkle to their holiday, Inniskillin Estate Winery is recognised as Ontario’s first Icewine maker and has channelled its extensive experience into producing a celestial Sparkling Cab Franc Icewine and a Sparkling Vidal Icewine.
Alternatively, visitors that are craving something sweeter can try Pillitteri Estate Winery’s decadent Chocolate Icewine. For those after something more alternative, the Ice House Winery specialises in Icewine Slushies and Cocktails. For the ultimate Icewine experience, Peller Estates Winery offers The Greatest Winery Tour, where visitors can experience a 10Below Icewine Lounge, with an ice bar, ice-sculptures and even a chandelier carved out of ice.
Celebrate the sweet liquid gold during maple syrup season
Alongside spring comes the iconic maple syrup season in Ontario (March – April), with the maple leaf being the national symbol the product is synonymous with Canada. Throughout the province, there are countless local festivals and celebrations dedicated to the sugary and uniquely Canadian product. First up, visitors can discover Wheeler’s Maple Products in Lanark County, known as the maple capital of Ontario, where they can learn about Ontario’s maple syrup heritage at the Maple Heritage Museum and the Original Sugar Shack.
For breakfast, visitors can stop by Fulton’s Pancake House nearby and indulge in their Heritage Meal featuring pancakes, bacon and a side of maple baked beans. Alternatively, the Muskoka Maple Trail in central Ontario showcases some of Ontario’s greatest maple delights – from Deerhurst Resort’s Build-Your-Own Maple Breakfast Poutine to Taffy-On-Snow and Maple Creemee’s (pure maple ice-cream) at Sugarbush Hill Maple Farm, Maple Sugar Body experiences at JW Marriot Spa Rosseau and Red Maple Dessert Wine at Muskoka Lakes Farm & Winery; the trail has it all.
For those after more of a celebration, now in its 55th year, the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival (2 April 2020) – previously recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Single Day Maple Syrup Festival – invites guests to make their own toffee and take a scenic tour to the back of a sugar bush by tractor. Niagara Falls also features Canada’s only indoor year-round sugar bush experience, Maple Leaf Place, which demonstrates maple syrup bottling, capping and labelling.
Fly over the 1000 Islands
Located between Kingston and Brockville, just three hours east of Toronto and two hours south of Ottawa, the 1000 Islands is the ultimate outdoor vacation, made up of hundreds of picturesque granite islands with windswept pine trees. Outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of ample paddling, fishing and diving while finding time to soak in the heritage at maritime museums, fairy-tale castles and lighthouses. 1000 Islands Helicopter Tours offers once-in-a-lifetime tours over the region year-round, where visitors can discover the unspoiled beauty of the St. Lawrence, marvel at the vastness of the Ivy Lee Bridge and view the richness of the 1000 Islands from above.
Experience Toronto from a new level
Downtown Toronto is filled with plenty to see and do including the futuristic CN Tower – an iconic must-do for anyone visiting, with stunning views of Toronto and beyond. For those in search of an additional adrenalin rush, visitors can test their nerves on the Edge Walk, the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk at the height of 356m (116 storeys) – and lean back over Toronto for the most breath-taking of views. Afterwards, visitors can treat their taste buds at the CN Tower’s ‘360 Restaurant’ and sample some delicious wine at the world’s highest wine cellar with over 550 different wines on offer.
The CN Tower unveiled its $16-million upgrade in June 2018, which included new floor-to-ceiling windows and double-decker glass floor, allowing a full panoramic view of Toronto. The renovations also included the opening of new bistro-style food and drink options, featuring Canadian-inspired cuisine from local producers and farmers.
Encounter the thunder of Niagara Falls
One of nature’s greatest wonders, Niagara Falls, is a must-see for visitors to Ontario. One hundred fifty thousand gallons of water pass over the 57 metre-high falls per second, and visitors can get up close and personal to the falls and the Niagara River on a number of tours. These include Hornblower Niagara Cruises, Journey Behind the Falls, WildPlay Zipline and Niagara Jet Boat Tours. WildPlay has also launched their Whirlpool Adventure Course at Niagara Falls, a thrilling experience of suspended obstacles and ziplines high above the whirlpool.
Get up close and personal to the Canadian Moose
For a truly unique experience, visit Algonquin Provincial Park in the summer, a gateway to Ontario’s beautiful wilderness, and get up close and personal to the iconic Canadian Moose on a canoe safari; tours are available through Algonquin Outfitters and Voyageur Quest. Located between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River, Algonquin Provincial Park is also one of North America’s prime “leaf peeping” areas during the autumn months, when the trees are ablaze with golden and auburn leaves. One of the best ways to see the changing leaves is to hike, bike or canoe along one of the many trails.
Immerse in Ontario’s Indigenous heritage in Manitoulin Island
Ontario celebrates its vibrant Indigenous community through festivals and pow wows. One of the most popular places in Ontario to attend a pow wow is Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario – also the largest freshwater island in the world. Pow wows are sacred gatherings of Indigenous peoples to honour the past, renew friendships and celebrate with music, song, food, dance and storytelling.
One of the most notable, the Zhibbaahaasing Indigenous Traditional pow wow in August is home to the world’s largest peace pipe, drum and outdoor dream catcher. Visitors also have the opportunity to embark on the Great Spirit Circle Trail, which provides an authentic experience and insight into the area’s Indigenous history. Some of the experiences on offer include learning how to make a dream catcher, hearing traditional stories and staying overnight in a tepee.
For further information on Ontario, please visit www.ontariotravel.net/uk.
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